Does My Pet Experience Grief


BY: Kathryn Harrison Brown, MA, LPC

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss


​For pet lovers, the loss of a beloved pet can be devastating. Owners and family members feel sad and lost when their pet dies. We go through the same grieving process as we do for humans. But what about our pets?  When another pet or a person in the home dies, do the other animals feel grief? If they do, how can we tell?  What, if anything, can we do to comfort them?

Research indicates that pets likely do experience grief. They may exhibit certain behaviors that are unusual for them such as lying in the area where another pet used to be. You may also notice a change in their eating and sleeping habits. There can even be a manifestation of behavioral changes such as withdrawing or separating themselves from the rest of the family. One owner reported that after the death of a dog’s littermate, the remaining dog ran away from home twice in one week, seemingly, to look for her sister.  Other reports suggest a pet may become irritable or appear to be sad as evidenced by the lack of the pet’s typical happy demeanor. The pet may wander around the house as though he/she doesn’t know what to do now.

If a family member dies, the pet may show some of the above same behaviors.  One person said that after the death of the pet’s master, the pet would go to the garage and sit and whine by the deceased person’s wheelchair. Another person reported that the pet would lie under the coffee table and cover his eyes with his paws. The pet may also want to sniff or be close to the person’s clothing or possessions that have the person’s scent.  

These animal reactions to loss are not all that different from the way humans react to death. Just as we try to support people who have lost a loved one, we can support animals in their grief by spending more time with them, reassuring them of a safe environment, giving them a special treat or meeting their unique needs in other special ways.

At Hospice of the Western Reserve, we also recognize the intense loss people experience when their pet dies and are always here to help support you. 

Consider attending our Pet Grief Workshop on Thursday, August 15. Learn more about our Support Groups here. 

We Can Help

Speak with the referral team by contacting us seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Any first visit and admission can be made the first day.

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More than 1,000 Hospice of the Western Reserve employees and 3,000 volunteers live and work side-by-side in the same neighborhoods with our patients and families. We are privileged to have cared for more than 100,000 Northern Ohioans since our inception.